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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009 May;17(5):376-86. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181943214.

Specific phobia in older adults: evidence from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions.

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  • 1Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



This study aims to investigate: 1) the association of specific phobia with childhood parental loss and recent stressful life events; 2) the coexistence of specific phobia and major depressive disorders (MDDs); and 3) the impact of specific phobia on medical conditions, obesity, health service utilization, and health-related quality of life.


Cross-sectional observational study.


The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (2001-2002), a national representative survey of the noninstitutionized U.S. household population.


The 8,205 respondents aged 65 and above.


Specific phobia was assessed using the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition version. Demographic characteristics, psychosocial risk factors, psychiatric disorders, health-related quality of life, obesity, medical conditions, and health service utilization were measured.


The current and lifetime prevalence of specific phobia were 4.51% and 6.05%, respectively. Multivariate analyses revealed that specific phobia was more common among younger age groups, women, and those who reported stressful life events but less common among foreign-born individuals. In addition, MDD was significantly related to lifetime specific phobia. Specific phobia was also significantly related to a lower health-related quality of life and two medical conditions.


Our prevalence rates of specific phobia in the elderly are at the lower end of the ranges identified in the previous studies. The correlation between specific phobia and MDD raises further questions about the nature of specific phobia in the elderly. This study supports the notion that specific phobia has a strong impact on the quality of life in old age.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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